We studied interspecific and ontogenetic relationships between the size of a leaf and the primary diameter of the internode bearing it. Although these two variables are known to be strongly correlated across species, the form of this relationship has not been studied. In a re-analysis of published data on interspecific comparisons of 69 temperate tree species, we showed the existence of a strong relationship between twig cross-sectional area (before secondary growth) and surface area of leaves borne by it, within each of three morphological groups, deciduous angiosperms, evergreen angiosperms, and gymnosperms. Within each of these groups, this relationship is isometric: across species, primary cross-sectional area of the stem increases proportionally with leaf surface area. When we consider the relationship between the cross-sectional area of a twig and the surface area of one leaf borne by it, the y-intercepts for this relation are different for the three groups. However, when total leaf surface area per first-year shoot is considered, no differences remained between gymnosperms and evergreen angiosperms, but deciduous angiosperms continued to be distinct. This difference between deciduous and evergreen groups could be due to differences in leaf volume (evergreen species have thicker leaves than deciduous) or in traits related to a trade-off between life span of leaves and their physiological behaviour.
We present results of the first quantitative study of the relationship between leaf size and primary diameter of the stem during ontogeny. Both these parameters increase during development of the plant from seedling to adult. For the four tree species examined, the relationship between primary cross-sectional area of the stem and leaf surface area is also isometric.
These results bear on a functional interpretation of the relationship between leaf and stem dimensions, suggesting that vascular supply is directly proportional to the requirements of leaves supported by the stem.